Google has added a new tool: Social Search. Accessible via Google Labs, Social Search provides results culled from the searcher’s social media graph.

Just as there are separate tabs in the normal Google search for images, blogs, video, etc., once you opt in to the Social Search experiment you’ll see a new tab for social-enhanced search-engine results.

For now, I’d consider this tool pretty bleeding-edge: the requirements for opting in, creating a Google profile and logging in to your Google account will curb the initial group using this tool.

However, if you wish you had thought more about video for search-engine optimization (SEO) before Google started blending video results into the regular search results, here’s your chance for one of their next additions.

For the past year or so, we’ve all been hearing about and experiencing how social Web activities produce results because social capital carries more meaning and influence than traditional paid advertising or other large-audience, reach-based methods (like SEO).

It makes sense at a gut level that decisions like choosing a real estate professional to work with can be influenced by knowing someone who had a positive experience.

Google, being in the business of selling advertising sprinkled around search results, would like to provide the most influential and relevant results to those using their search product. So it only makes sense that they’d be looking for a way to enhance their search results with sources that are closer, in terms of relationships, to the searcher.

Here’s how you can try out the new social search tool.

  • Get a Google Profile if you don’t have one already. (Yes, I know, yet another social media profile to manage.)
  • In your Google Profile, add all your other social media profiles as "other links."
  • Go to the Google Labs page.
  • Opt in to the Social Search experiment. …CONTINUED

From here on, when you are logged in to Google and conduct a search, you will be using the Google Labs search, giving you the social search option as a tab under "more options." You should also know that you can sign up for only one experiment at a time, so make sure none of the others are truly important to you.

The quality of your results will depend a great deal on the profile links you provide to Google via your profile. If you didn’t have any social networking profiles, then you won’t see any results. I also found that it took a couple days to start showing any results at all. So perhaps you might set it up and then try again a couple days later.

Given that this tool is still very much an experiment and not in general use, how might you use it in the meantime?

  • General reputation management (assuming your clients have "friended" you on one of your social networks).
  • Help raise Google’s awareness of some site or page that it isn’t indexing for its primary search (though I don’t think it would help with specific keyword ranking or other SEO heavy-lifting).
  • Listening to your social networks for topics/themes that are important to your audience.
  • Locating social network content from your friends that you might link to in your own content.

With the rise in importance of social networks to online marketing agendas, Google appears to be developing a tool to layer its core competence (search technology) on top of all that social activity. In many ways, the search function of the individual networking sites present a threat to Google’s all-encompassing Web search.

For example, when looking for business information on someone it makes sense to start at LinkedIn’s search instead of Google because all of the results in LinkedIn will be business-oriented.

Incorporating social graph information into the way Google displays results is a logical step for them. For those using online marketing techniques that rely on being found online and monitoring reputation, observing how this service develops and is rolled out is worthwhile. Just like it was for video results.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.


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